Ketamine is a problem in some parts of the world. Korea, China, and Japan are all having issues with young people abusing or becoming addicted to ketamine. Used as a club drug, the psychoactive dissociate can create a derealized hallucinogenic state. Users feel this puts them in a sort of trance with the music as they detach from themselves. Called the “k-hole” the effects of ketamine are highly sought after, similar to the way club goers in America look to MDMA and ecstasy.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is most well known for being used as an animal tranquilizer. In addition to being an anesthetic, ketamine is also a dissociative drugs. Popularly abused dissociative substances in America are found over the counter in pharmacy drugs like cough syrup and cold medicine. DXM, or dextromethorphan, creates a similar hallucinogenic and trance like derealization as ketamine, but without the anesthetic effect.
Why Is Ketamine Being Researched For Mental Health?
According to The Big Think, ketamine “…has been shown to relieve the kind of depression that no other drugs can affect. It’s lifted even suicidal depression in just hours. With studies into ketamine going on for over a decade, a recent statement from the American Psychiatric Association says there is ‘compelling evidence’ that it works…” Problematically, the article adds, “…its effects have been described as ‘transient’.”
Ketamine affects the brain differently than typical antidepressants. Rather than adjusting serotonin and noradrenaline levels, or working with dopamine, ketamine focuses on glutamate. Glutamate is also a neurotransmitter which sends signals throughout the brain. Typically, glutamate is associated with creating memory and sending strong signals to the midbrain. The midbrain is where the brain prioritizes its survival order of operations. Medications which target this neural pathway could not just treat imbalance but essentially teach the brain how not to be depressed. For those who live with chronic depression, this is a monumental hope.
Currently, Ketamine is still being evaluated by the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration. Using drugs which can be abused to treat mental illness is always controversial. However, as one doctor explained to Big Think, “‘If you have patients that are likely to seriously injure themselves or kill themselves within a short period of time, and they’ve tried the standard treatments, how do you not offer this treatment?’”
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